After a massive rain storm hemmed us hotel guests in last night, preventing any extensive exploration of the area (not that there was a terribly large amount to see, from the look of things—barring some sort of children’s fort dedicated to Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show), morale for the Nebraska leg of my journey was not particularly high. After a few drinks at the hotel’s bar with a few of my fellow patrons (apparently drunk people, locked in by rain, occasionally enjoy a writer!) and a power sleep, though, I discovered two amazing things.
- Quality Inn, for all its talk of water conservation, did not have a low-flow shower, and that meant the shower was fantastic.
- Quality Inn does not skimp on its breakfast. Trays of tater tots, bacon, and ham; bowls of fruit; cartons of milk; a fine array of cereal. There was even eggs, for those of you silly creatures that can partake of such things. Personally, I loaded up on bacon, toast, OJ, and a bowl of fruit loops (you know, for my health). Breakfast of champions? I think so.
After that, I undertook the final leg of this journey…
Today’s journey began in North Platte, Nebraska. From there, I traveled 270 miles in about 4 hours (for once, the time Google and Tom Tom actually told me it would take…though my version of the trip included stops and photo look-abouts, so I still win) to Golden, Colorado.
It occurred to me that I forgot two very important things to the Nebraska experience that fortunately still applied on the third day of this trip. To truly understand Nebraska, you must expect:
- Bugs. You don’t even know. Huge bugs. Lots of bugs. Machine gun bug massacre on my windshield level of bugs. For God’s sake, in my hotel, they even had a sign saying, “So we spray for bugs, but the bugs win—expect them in your hotel room, and it’s not our fault!” which I must say is very distressing.
- Construction. I thought Michigan loved construction, but Nebraska has (literally) 12 miles stretches of highway down littered in those orange cones, and the dreaded 35 mph speed limits. Get behind a semi there, and you’re pretty well doomed to the waiting game. And what a long, terrible waiting game it is…because the scenery surely won’t save you.
Back to the descriptions, though, the road bloomed in darkness and in rain clouds on the third day of the trip…spat a few globs of rain at me, and then went on to being just a grey haze. And let me tell you, if anything can make the Nebraska experience a little more uncomfortable instead of the same old blue sky on those same old green plains, it’s adding a grey cast to the whole affair. There weren’t even layers of clouds to break it up…it was just one continues grey slab.
First thoughts: Hills! Sweet and holy changes in elevation! AND NO CORN!
Quickly replaced by: Oh, God. Where did the hills go? It’s…it’s even more dead than Nebraska. Seriously, words cannot begin to describe—it was the lonely, barren prairie you see in all those classy westerns. To truly appreciate how dry it is here, observe:
The first picture is the Platte River, from North Platte, Nebraska. The second image is the Platte River, as seen in Sterling, Colorado. Yes, note the distinct lack of actual water there. Oh dears.
Speaking of Sterling, though, I stopped there to refuel, hit the rest area, and poke around the local nature area, as I was informed my brother and sister-in-law wouldn’t be about in Golden until 5…and I still had another hour’s time change to go through (Colorado is 2 hours behind Michigan, by the by). I got some pretty shots around “Kiwanis Cove”…and then I met some dogs.
Yes, dogs. A pair of wild dogs. They just, appeared out of the trees, lowered their heads, growled, and started to advance. Experiencing an, “Oh, crap” moment, I started to jog in the opposite direction. Naturally, they quickly overtook me. Curiously, they seemed content with me as long as I jogged. When I stopped—they growled, in the I’m-going-to-eat-your-face sort of way. When construction workers caught their attention though, I’m not ashamed to say I bolted the rest of the way to the car. Then I hit the road and tried to forget Sterling. Goodness.
After that, though, it was sparse towns. Eastern Colorado was even worse than Nebraska for finding gas. They actually had signs for towns that read, simply, “No services” – none, none at all. And though you had the continuous feeling of rising, the barren expanse about me made me eventually go, “Where’d the corn go? Bring back the corn!”
And the temperature was a thing to behold. In Sterling, still at about Nebraska’s elevation, it was 72 degrees. I swear I crossed like two rises and suddenly it shot up to 86…and kept jumping until Denver, for a total of about 93 degrees. Closer to the sun. Oh yeah.
Obviously, though, I made it (and the barren fortunately transformed into those mountains I do so love), and so now, this is essentially my back yard…